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University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean Appoints Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Interim Director of Research Affairs

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Richard N. “Robin” Pierson III, M.D.
 Richard N. “Robin” Pierson III, M.D.

Renowned Cardiopulmonary Transplant Surgeon and Scientist, Dr. Richard N. (Robin) Pierson III to Lead Academic & Research Affairs

University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., has appointed Richard N. “Robin” Pierson III, M.D., as the new senior associate dean for academic affairs and interim director of research affairs.

In his new roles, Dr. Pierson — professor, Department of Surgery, in the Division of Cardiac Surgery, and chief of surgery at the Baltimore VA Medical Center — will oversee the academic and research enterprise of the School of Medicine.

While continuing to direct his own National Institutes of Health-funded research laboratory and performing heart and lung transplants, he will vacate his position at the Baltimore VA Medical Center.

“Research and academic affairs are crucial components of our mission here at the University of Maryland — to provide world class patient care in addition to conducting groundbreaking research and providing outstanding education,” says Dean Reece, who also is vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor at the School of Medicine. “Dr. Pierson will set and implement ambitious goals for both our research and academic enterprises, while working to elevate the entire School of Medicine in the process. His breadth of experience in academic medicine, his proven scientific and leadership skills as well as his knowledge of this institution makes him a perfect fit for these transformative positions.”

In his new role, Pierson will work to ensure collaboration throughout the medical education enterprise and oversee the development of new initiatives to advance into the future. He will oversee the School of Medicine's nearly half billion dollar research enterprise and become actively engaged in construction planning for the new and approximately $300 million Health Sciences Facility III research building, which is scheduled to be completed in 2017. In addition, he will work collaboratively with the campus to ensure the protection of research subjects, and to support School of Medicine and university interdisciplinary research.

“This is an incredible opportunity for me to help this organization grow and prosper and to identify new areas in which we can evolve,” says Dr. Pierson. “I have spent my career deeply involved in research and education. I look forward to working closely with our administrative and research leadership teams to sustain the great academic accomplishments of our outstanding institution, and to determine new goals and initiatives to help us excel. In addition, I'm passionate about transforming fundamental research findings into new clinical treatments that can help patients. This institution has been a national leader in that area, as evidenced by our recent historic full-face transplant case, among several notable examples. In my role in research affairs, I hope to be able to strengthen our burgeoning basic science foundation, and improve the pathways to clinical translation, making it easier for investigators to successfully bring their innovative ideas to the bedside, yet safer and easier for patients to gain access to emerging treatments and technologies,” says Dr. Pierson.

Dr. Pierson replaces Bruce Jarrell, M.D., F.A.C.S., who has been the executive vice dean of the School of Medicine since 2006 and has recently been appointed chief academic and research officer and senior vice president of the University of Maryland's founding campus in Baltimore.

“Dr. Jarrell has been an outstanding leader and colleague in the School of Medicine for many years, serving as both vice dean and chair of surgery,” says Dean Reece. “We look forward to our continuing a strong and vibrant collaborative relationship, and wish him great success in his new role.”

Dr. Pierson directs a major research program which focuses, in part, on xenotransplantation, the transplantation of organs and tissues across species to address the limitations of donor availability. He is funded by the NIH with nearly $3 million and has been continually funded for many years. “Should we perfect these techniques, xenotransplantation could allow us to more fully implement transplantation as a treatment for conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, liver failure and end-stage lung disease,” Dr. Pierson says.

Dr. Pierson's laboratory also studies methods of tricking the immune system into accepting a transplanted graft without the need for long-term immunosuppression, known as transplant tolerance. Current anti-rejection drugs have important risks and side effects. “We have been working with preclinical heart transplant models, blocking individual co-stimulation pathway molecules to try to trick the immune system into believe the transplanted organ is ‘self,'” Dr. Pierson explains.

He received his B.A. from Princeton University in English and American Studies in 1978, and his M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1983. His postgraduate clinical training included General Surgery at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1983-1990), Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard, (1990-1992), and clinical and research fellowship in Cardiothoracic Transplantation at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England (1993-1994).

In 1994, Dr. Pierson began working at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as assistant professor of surgery and director of heart and lung transplantation; he became associate professor in 1999. He joined the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 2002 as associate professor of surgery and clinical director of the heart and lung transplant programs and the LVAD program; he became chief of surgery at the Baltimore VA Medical Center in 2006.

Dr. Pierson is a distinguished and highly regarded surgeon and scientist and has received many awards and honors. He was honored with the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering in February 1999, the ASTS Wyeth Mid-Level Faculty Research Fellowship in 2004, the John Alexander Research Scholarship of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery in 1996, and the American Lung Association Award as a Dalsemer Research Scholar in 1996.

He was the president of International Xenotransplant Association from 2007 to 2009 and sits on many editorial boards, including for the American Journal of Transplantation, Transplantation and Xenotransplantation. Dr. Pierson is a prolific scholar, having written more than 120 journal articles and 11 book chapters.

“Dr. Pierson is an outstanding leader, and I feel confident he will lead and shape the academic and research affairs in the School of Medicine to even greater success in the future,” says Dean Reece.

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